News Column

iPhone app offers new social networking experience

July 5, 2014

By Adrienne Mayfield, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

July 05--Micah Davis said he hates it when he meets someone who is tremendously talented but goes unrecognized. Rather than complain, he decided to solve the problem millennial style.

Davis created an app called Network.

Network is a free application that launches Aug. 1 for the iPhone. Davis, 21, describes the app as a locality based discovery engine meant to connect talent with their community.

"My main goal is to bring the talented in my community together, unite small businesses and let people know all the awesome people right under their noses," he said.

Network is a mash-up of the best features from popular social media sites. Davis aims for the professionalism of LinkedIn, the trending influence of Twitter, the social interaction of Facebook, the random discovery of Stumbled Upon and Chat Roulette, and the artistic touch of Instagram.

Network uses detailed algorithms and pictorial analysis to scan a social media database for locally trending artists, entrepreneurs, businesses and events. If people are tweeting about talent, Network will find it.

"Your friends list is different than mine, and something that circulates on your feed might not show up on mine. We're just going to make it where if it's news you're going to hear about it," Davis said.

A junior majoring in communications at Old Dominion University, Davis lives in Kiln Creek in Newport News. The Network app concept is simple and hasn't been done, he said.

"If you type my name into Google you're only going to find stuff on websites that featured me," he said.

"Where I'm really talking about is the social networks because that's the generation we're in. I'm pulling my search results from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram -- it's not going to be your usual official website, but it's going to be what you want to see," Davis said.

To style Network, Davis partnered with Denbigh resident Anthony Alston Jr., who is a 20-year-old graphic design junior at Virginia Tech. Together they designed the profile, messaging, search and discovery functions.

"It's a resourceful tool for people to find local business people, and helps locals boost their resumes and skills," Alston said.

"In your network you have your friends and family, but it becomes limited. On Network you have your profile and a visual resume so people outside of your network can see your work," Alston said.

Davis said initially he logged onto "YouTube University" and taught himself basic programming. Four months ago he outsourced Raj Bhargava, a programmer from Dubai, to take Network to the next level.

In an email Bhargava said that he believes that Davis' concept for eliminating professional cliques through Network is "genius."

Davis said Network was inspired in part by people he met who are in college and the military. They are just discovering Hampton Roads, and often don't know where to begin.

"I put myself in the position of somebody who's not from here but just happens to live here," Davis said. "This is a really military-based area so you have people that are from here but don't know anything yet. That's the person I was trying to appeal to, where you can be in a new area and automatically kind of be in the in crowd, without being in the in crowd so to speak."

Together, Davis and Alston have worked on Network for two years and have invested $2,000 out of pocket. They have spent $5,000 on the app so far -- the additional $3,000 was raised on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website that let's ordinary people invest in projects they care about. A single $2,000 contribution came from a supporter in Michigan, they said.

At least 1,000 beta versions of Network are being tested by friends and colleagues this month. Those versions aim to work out software kinks and facilitate the word of mouth buzz that has made many apps popular.

"What I'm really looking for is to make sure that I can talk to as many people as possible after they've used it, just to see their experience," he said. "There's no number that says 'OK, if you get to like 10,000 you're winning.' If I successfully help a good amount of people I just want to replicate that as many times as possible," Davis said.

Word of mouth among the app's users will be key, Davis and Alston said.

"I definitely think that word of mouth is more powerful than we give it credit to," Davis said. "If you see somebody making great content, then you know who belongs on this site and can find other people on that level. So the community kind of builds itself on recommendation."

Network will initially be available for the iPhone -- the next step will be a website version that will mirror the app's functionality but provide a paid membership with more detail and space, and extended features. If all goes well, Davis will eventually develop Network for Android.

"It's definitely up in the air. It depends on the success of the Apple version if I come out with the Android version because of finances. Designing it for Android is like a process in its own. That's like another three months to even develop it," Davis said.

One of the first Network members and beta testers is Long Nyugen, 21, a Newport News photographer who opened his own business six months ago.

"Me being a young photographer and owning my own business, it's hard to approach customers," Nyugen said. "We don't allow everyone to get enough shine or the opportunity to prove themselves... I like it [Network] because this is an opportunity for everyone -- it doesn't matter if you just started or you're established -- to play on an even playing field so that everyone can shine."

Although Davis knows that all Network users will have different goals, the one thing he hopes they will have in common is love for their communities.

"I'm really trying to put it on the Peninsula and expose a lot of people in this area," Davis said. "It's all community based at the end of the day, but the beauty of it is it can be anyone's community."

Mayfield can be reached at 757-247-4732.

About the app

Network is an app that allows local talent and businesses to network with their community and one another.

Function: Network enables local talent and businesses to network together and with their community at large. The app scans social media websites in a specific area for registered talent, small businesses and events and displays the results to the user.

Cost: Free

Available: Aug. 1 for the iPhone

More information: http://www.wemustnetwork.com

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(c)2014 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Visit the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) at www.dailypress.com

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Source: Daily Press (Newport News, VA)


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